I have been doing quite a bit of body contemplation meditation the last couple of days.
Going through the various parts of the body.
This has a two fold affect I find - creates disgust and aversion for our body (Asubha) and also shows that the body is not self.
Very calming and sobering I have found...
I read it in the suttas and didnt know how to properly meditate on it. So far I connected it to my physical death as to not be attached to the beauty of the body and the body itself. Makes you wonder how close you are to your body as opposed to our mental health. That and when or if you take the other precept of not wearing jewels, scents, etc puts that in perspectuve.
"One hour and then another.
Inexorably march,step by step.
Whenever I meet you, we each smile
But who is it who drags your corpse around?
I personally find that "disgust" and "aversion," even if mentioned in different translations, are a bit too strong words to refer to our humble physical aggregate.
Contemplation of the body should make us more aware of its impermanence and encourage detachment, dis-identification with it.
Yet, our body serves its purpose, and we laypeople can choose to indulge a bit more in beautification and satisfaction of urges.
I tried this about 18 months ago and found myself getting caught up in the disgust for my physical form. I have not tried it since. I'm glad it's working for you my friend _ /\ _
No disgust or aversion here. I'm perfectly happy with my perfectly imperfect body. I don't dwell on it but I'm happy in my skin. I am happy to meditate on its impermanence - (aging helps with that anyway) but disgust or aversion are not for me. Disgust and aversion are also attachments in my humble opinion.
Yeah - disgust is probably too strong a word for it.
It's just when I think of what my heart looks like beating away in my chest....and my lungs....my large intestine all coiled up down there and full of s**t....it's hard to put in to words the feeling I guess. But it's a good thing, I know that much.
Good stuff @Bunks . The main thing is that its working for you. ???
Anatomy is my homebase. I likewise find it grounding and conducive to a perception of anatta. As @DhammaDragon mentioned, though, I don’t experience much aversion, more along the lines of disenchantment. (There are two aspects that repulse me, but I’ll spare ya.)
I first started doing it in a non-systematic way, imaginatively populating the awareness of the body. Then, I found a guided meditation by Bhikkhu Analayo here: http://dharmaseed.org/teacher/439/. He goes through the 4 satipatthanas progressively, using a simple body scan method. The meditation moves briskly; 40 minutes covers all 4. I based my own more systematic contemplation of anatomy on his brief presentation of it in the podcast.
I’ve found it a good way to contemplate aging, sickness and death removed from a sense of self. The skin is a good example. When that’s held in mind singularly, I contemplate the skin’s aging, its vulnerability to disease and injury, its death, then the fact that it’s beyond my direct control and of its not-me-mine-self nature. Sometimes I continue from there with the properties, honing in on just the aspect of solidity, etc., also not me, mine or self. I’ve come to call it “the truth of the body”. It’s oddly calming.
By the whole concept of this body, continuing 24/7, 365 days a year, to maintain, sustain and to function, while we, unthinking, unconscious of every single little thing it does, continue on our way, taking it largely, 'mindlessly' for granted.
We lift one leg to put it in front of the other, which under analysis, is actually a continual process that our body utilises to basically prevent us from falling flat on our faces.
Maybe we don't realise this, but we can adjust our level of resistance to pain; we can place our hand on a hot radiator, and judge it to be too hot to permit our fingers to linger. But picking up a cup of tea, that is also too hot, we can increase our pain threshold, so that we resist dropping it as literally too hot to handle, until we find a safe surface on which to put it, thus preventing a messy, possibly dangerous spillage.
The simple action of reaching out to open a door, si actually a massively complex series of movements, governed by countless impulses and muscle movements we simply never stop to consider as we perform the action.
And yes, throughout all of these different actions, our hearts beat rhythmically, our lungs expand and contract, and our intestines digest, absorb, process and move, via peristalsis, nutrients we survive on. And while we digest, different organs - the spleen, pancreas, liver, kidneys, all filter, extract and process all the different compounds we need, from our nutrients.
Awake, or asleep, by day or night, our bodies perform millions of different actions, simultaneously, without any governance from us.
We do not need to look for miracles.
We ARE miracles.
Those of us women who have carried a baby in our wombs are even more in awe of our bodies.
Feeling a life grow and develop inside us, our bodies adapt accordingly, give birth...
I can't bring myself to think negatively on my body or anything else's.
But this Gunther Von Hagen guy has succeeded in making me horrified and absolutely fascinated at the same time. I've always been interested in archaeology, and fascinated by series such as Bones.
I've never attempted nor do I want to be disgusted with bodies of any kind.
I want to learn more about how they work - I'd rather work on being able to observe the gory stuff without feeling nauseated. It's amazing all the people who have to be around it because of their jobs/careers and how it will affect them over time.
Buddhism for some Sangha is an ascetic yogi tradition.
Look after yourself. Body, emotions and mind included. Otherwise you will make yourself indulgent or ill, averse or dependent - unbalanced. I prefer a Middle Way.
You can body scan in seated meditation without choosing to send healing and letting go. However personally when I consider emptying of attachment to or against, I am more for having a healthy body ...
I like Yoga Nidra which relaxes and sometimes vitalises the body, rather than abusing it with hatred/aversion/denial ... Be kind.
Metta one might say ...
I'm more like @federica . Yeah, sure, digested food and bile and poop is kind of gross. But the process is so amazing. I love everything I learn about the insane ways our bodies keep us alive! I love it! I had a book a few years ago that was like 500 pages and went through what the average human body does in a 24 hour day, by system. And it baredly scratched the surface (especially considering how much we don't know). We take for granted everything our bodies do until they don't do it right anymore. Maybe I'm extra fascinated having a diabetic kid because I have a snap shot of what his body is doing around the clock for just one small portion of all the complex things it does. It's pretty amazing. It makes me appreciate my body and my life so much. Even on the sick and miserable days.
I don't find that it makes me more attached. Though, you say @Bunks that is creates aversion, but since when is that a good thing? I realize that is the teaching, but I find it a bit at odds with the whole "middle way" idea to specifically look to create aversion. Or perhaps if you are out of balance in some ways it helps to bring things into balance. But even disposing of waste is seriously fascinating, and then when you look at how those things in our life have an impact on the planet (when we are not so out of balance like we are now) and it gets even more interesting! Decaying waste is necessary for life on this planet. Nothing is wasted in nature. The fact we have so distinctly separated ourselves from it is a big problem.
My wording in the initial post was poor @karasti - the idea behind contemplation of the body is to lessen attachment to it. Not so much aversion I think.
Another one I was thinking about is food. How we can sit at a table and carry on how beautiful a piece of food is but then as soon as it's in our mouth and we start chewing it it suddenly becomes disgusting! Needless to say how we feel about it when its in our stomach or coming out our butts!
Shit happens @Bunks
Just a biological process, nothing miraculous. Some would say it's eww.
Let's stop glorifying biological process, whether it's reproduction or digestion or excretion. It's not Buddhist.
But isn’t it an amazing thing to be able to feel? Whenever I try to contemplate not-mine with respect to the body I come up against the fact that the eyes are what bring me sight of the world, the ears are my portals into sound, when something pokes me or I stub my toe the body tells me about it... all the indications are that the body is my form in this world.
Similarly when “i” try to move, it is the body that responds. When I move an arm, or scratch my nose in response to an itch, or when I walk, the body responds to the volition of the mind. I find it surprising every morning when I wake up from my dreams, that I appear to have a body.
Yet ultimately when considering mind - memory, thought, consciousness - perhaps these things are independent of the body, and we could say we have another reality.
But I think that before you can contemplate not-mine, you have to become more fully aware of the body, all it’s little aches and hidden sensations. It’s a question of attuning your awareness, of becoming mindfully aware of the whole body, not just the fleshy thing we take for granted every day.
The body may not be self and it is good to be more dispassionate towards other bodies but I hope you remember the Middle way and treat your body well.
Absolutely amazing, @Kerome
I do agree, @Bunks, that contemplation of the more disgusting bodily processes are meant to lessen our attachment to it.
But let's not lessen our feeling of awe at the wonder that the fact to be alive, here and now, can be.
After all, part of our Buddhist teaching is also to be present and aware in the here and now.
Also, what @David have just said
For real! Thanks for the reminder
I found this interesting article called "The Body as spiritual Path," from Dharma Wisdom, by meditation teacher Phillip Moffitt.
It may be relevant reading for us laypeople, especially, since we are not bound by celibacy vows and may be allowed a balanced view of our bodies:
Some salient points:
Nobody is glorifying anything, @techie. Could you explain your opinion and elaborate, please?
Moderate discipline and non extreme ascetic practices are helpful. I feel that is what you are doing. Sublimation.
The body is a spirtual path/teacher as @DhammaDragon points out.
Aspects of Tantra, Shaolin, Tendai marathon monkery can be a little indulgent/extreme ...
@techie when you grow a baby in your body and birth it and watch it turn into a full-sized human, then you get back to us about how it's not a miracle. Not in a religious sense but a sense of wonder and awe. Just because it is "just biology" doesn't mean it isn't worth of finding joy in. Just like outer space and the expansiveness of it.
I honestly don't find myself grossed out by any bodily functions. That's not to say that I enjoy cleaning up puke when my kid gets sick, but I find it interesting to consider that food I ate 10 hours ago still comes up recognizable because it's sat in my stomach so long because the intestinal bug has slowed digestion to a halt. diarrhea? Your body pulls all the moisture it can from all of your tissues in an attempt to flush out the bug. We think we get dehydrated just because we are on the toilet every 5 minutes, but it's the nature of the intestines pulling all the water from our muscles and systems that causes it. It's all fascinating to me, even the gross stuff.
The Buddhist view is to shun all attachment to the body. The body is subject to pain, disease, old age, and death. Just like all existence.
Yes, @techie, but that does not mean we can't be amazed at its workings or wonder at the complexity of its different functions, all working in unison to keep 'you' alive and well.
Simply because we marvel, doesn't mean we are 'attached'.
I mentioned in another thread that in all probability I may well have to succumb to the removal/loss of my lower left limb.
Simply because I may well have my leg cut off doesn't mean I cannot be enthralled by the why's wherefore's and how's....
We are fascinated by the way the body works, functions, exists.
We will all lay down our lives at one point. In whichever manner comes to us. We know this. We accept this.
It doesn't mean we cannot be grateful for the human form now.
but remember @techie that aversion is just the same as attachment.
I don't think techie is talking about aversion. He is talking about non attachment. Different things.
yes; an non-attachment doesn't mean 'dislike. His comments seem to imply that we shouldn't have any views or attractions to the body at all. We should be indifferent to the point of not caring.
Whereas in Buddhism there is a view that the body is just as precious as it is impermanent.
So this -
Is not strictly accurate.
@Bunks the use of the word "shunning" to me brings about a much more in-depth description rather than simply non-attachment. He is assuming anyone finding wonder and fascination with the human body is suffering attachment to it, which isn't true. In fact, I'd say it has helped with that quite a lot. While some might find it useful to focus on the "disgusting" nature of the human body to reduce attachment, for me understanding it in more detail does the same thing, without having to take on a view of being "disgusting" which still to me suggests aversion.
If someone says "I like to know how the body works", it's not an attachment to the body, it's an attachment to the knowing.
None of it has to be an attachment. Not the body. Not the knowing. The knowledge can be used in a practical manner without clinging to the knowing either.
Interesting. At what point is 'liking' not 'attaching'? Or maybe, at what point does liking become attaching?
We can have knowledge of the body's structures or functions without liking or disliking. Just knowing.
Granted, but check my original post ...
I'd agree if it was worded "I need to know..." but wanting to enjoy something while it lasts or wanting to know how something works knowing full well that it is not going to be around forever is just smart.
So now, we get to a definition of dukkah. One definition (or type of suffering) is that when pleasure stops, we suffer. And so the argument always is that finding pleasure in something (even if you know it will end) will inevitably lead to suffering.
So, @David, there is always the option to simply accept suffering - no problem. The bigger lesson that I see here is to be vigilant for the pervasiveness of attachment. (It's everywhere!) And there are many times when we suffer needlessly without having made the calculation you talked about.
Enjoyment is not attachment. It is the fear of loss of the enjoyment that brings the attachment. Who doesn't marvel at the beauty of a sunset? One can note, appreciate and enjoy it and then move on when it's done without spinning the whole "omg it's over! I haz a sad!" storyline.
I can only ask ... is there anyone (under normal circumstances), when experiencing pleasure, says to themselves "I can't wait for this pleasure to end!"?
that would be the opposite, which is aversion. Clinging to it is the problem. You enjoy it when it's in the moment and when the next moment comes, you find contentedness in that, too. The point is to be balanced whether you are weathering a storm or taking in a sunset. Joy is found in contentment and can be found anywhere when we're well-practiced enough. Even in difficulty. Happiness is another thing all together.
Being aware that life entails a dukkha component does not mean that we should make our daily life a sadistic exercise in dukkha-tormenting and revelling in dukkha.
The fact that we are aware that this reality is impermanent, dukkha and not-self, does not mean that we should pine and bemoan our existence away.
It makes each single moment we are granted to live more precious, unique and worth living.
That assumes that enjoyment always leads to attachment which I think is a leap.
The temporal nature of enjoyable things is precisely what makes them so precious.
I can agree we suffer needlessly at times when attachment is like a bad addiction but some suffering is worth it. I wouldn't trade the time I had with any passed away loved ones for a lack of all attachment.
When it comes to trying to let go of that which is healthy, it is better to let go of letting go.
We don't let go of the raft until we reach the far shore.
Contemplation of the body also helpful when one can't sleep and the mind is racing....come back to the body....relaaaaaaaaaaaxxxxxxxx.......
There is that as well @Bunks but the first one you mentioned still has its uses too. Yes, we don't want to be too averse to our bodies but we don't want to go overboard and start lusting after them all the time.
Contemplation of the body as in reminding yourself of all the gore is good for gaining control of our sexuality but if we don't take care of our body, we will be no good to anyone including ourself.
Isn't that why Buddha started eating again?
Because we know the middle way, we can take care of the body, use it to help ease suffering when we can and enjoy it while it lasts because we know it won't for long.
You're a wise man @David
I just don't want you to get carried away or be too hard on yourself is all.
Hopefully I'm not being a pain.
Not at all mate! Appreciate your input.
Trust me, I am as mentally healthy now as I have ever been in my life.
As with most people, I have my moments where I can get down on myself every now and again, but these are few and far between.
The general anxiety I suffered as a teenager and twenty-something has pretty much disappeared completely!
Thank you Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha
I think the kid's got the idea....
As we all know, most of us sleep with a skeleton. Our own.
Death is natural and necessary, but not just. It is a random force of nature; survival is equally accidental. Each loss is an occasion to remember that survival is a gift.
Harriet McBryde Johnson
In some Dharma training we can prepare/explore death. Personally I have a couple of compost heaps ...
leaf and new grass taken yesterday
There is but one freedom, to put oneself right with death. After that everything is possible.